We’ve missed out on or delayed a number of trips and holidays over the last year and a half for, you know, pandemic-related reasons. So this summer, in addition to our trip to Lichfield, we arranged a series of back-to-back expeditions.
1. Alton Towers
The first leg of our holiday saw us spend a long weekend at Alton Towers, staying over at one of their themed hotels in between days at the water park and theme park:
2. Darwin Forest
The second leg of our holiday took us to a log cabin in the Darwin Forest Country Park for a week:
Kicking off the second week of our holiday, we crossed the Pennines to Preston to hang out with my family (with the exception of JTA, who had work to do back in Oxfordshire that he needed to return to):
4. Forest of Bowland
Ruth and I then left the kids with my mother and sisters for a few days to take an “anniversary mini-break” of glamping in the gorgeous Forest of Bowland:
The children, back in Preston, were apparently having a whale of a time:
6. Suddenly, A Ping
The plan from this point was simple: Ruth and I would return to Preston for a few days, hang out with my family some more, and eventually make a leisurely return to Oxfordshire. But it wasn’t to be…
I got a “ping”. What that means is that my phone was in close proximity to somebody else’s phone on 29 August and that other person subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
My risk from this contact is exceptionally low. There’s only one place that my phone was in close proximity to the phone of anybody else outside of my immediate family, that day, and it’s when I left it in a locker at the swimming pool near our cabin in the Darwin Forest. Also, of course, I’d been double-jabbed for a month and a half and I’m more-cautious than most about contact, distance, mask usage etc. But my family are, for their own (good) reasons, more-cautious still, so self-isolating at Preston didn’t look like a possibility for us.
As soon as I got the notification we redirected to the nearest testing facility and both got swabs done. 8 days after possible exposure we ought to have a detectable viral load, if we’ve been infected. But, of course, the tests take a day or so to process, so we still needed to do a socially-distanced pickup of the kids and all their stuff from Preston and turn tail for Oxfordshire immediately, cutting our trip short.
The results would turn up negative, and subsequent tests would confirm that the “ping” was a false positive. And in an ironic twist, heading straight home actually put us closer to an actual COVID case as Ruth’s brother Owen turned out to have contracted the bug at almost exactly the same time and had, while we’d been travelling down the motorway, been working on isolating himself in an annex of the “North wing” of our house for the duration of his quarantine.
7. Ruth & JTA go to Berwick
Thanks to negative tests and quick action in quarantining Owen, Ruth and JTA were still able to undertake the next part of this three-week holiday period and take their anniversary break (which technically should be later in the year, but who knows what the situation will be by then?) to Berwick-upon-Tweed. That’s their story to tell, if they want to, but the kids and I had fun in their absence:
8. Reunited again
Finally, Ruth and JTA returned from their mini-break and we got to do a few things together as a family again before our extended holiday drew to a close:
9. Back to work?
Tomorrow I’m back at work, and after 23 days “off” I’m honestly not sure I remember what I do for a living any more. Something to do with the Internet, right? Maybe ecommerce?
I’m sure it’ll all come right back to me, at least by the time I’ve read through all the messages and notifications that doubtless await me (I’ve been especially good at the discipline, this break, of not looking at work notifications while I’ve been on holiday; I’m pretty proud of myself.)
But looking back, it’s been a hell of a three weeks. After a year and a half of being pretty-well confined to one place, doing a “grand tour” of so many destinations as a family and getting to do so many new and exciting things has made the break feel even longer than it was. It seems like it must have been months since I last had a Zoom meeting with a work colleague!
For now, though, it’s time to try to get the old brain back into work mode and get back to making the Web a better place!
An extended search by me, fleeblewidget, our kids, my mother, my sisters, their friends, and their kids eventually found this well-concealed container. Thanks for the history lesson, greetings from Oxfordshire, and TFTC!
Back in February my friend Katie shared with me an already four-year-old piece of interactive fiction, Bus Station: Unbound, that I’d somehow managed to miss the first time around. In the five months since then I’ve periodically revisited and played through it and finally gotten around to writing a review:
All of the haunting majesty of its subject, and a must-read-thrice plot
Perhaps it helps to be as intimately familiar with Preston Bus Station – in many ways, the subject of the piece – as the protagonist. This work lovingly and faithfully depicts the space and the architecture in a way that’s hauntingly familiar to anybody who knows it personally: right down to the shape of the rubberised tiles near the phone booths, the forbidding shadows of the underpass, and the buildings that can be surveyed from its roof.
But even without such a deep recognition of the space… which, ultimately, soon comes to diverge from reality and take on a different – darker, otherworldly – feel… there’s a magic to the writing of this story. The reader is teased with just enough backstory to provide a compelling narrative without breaking the first-person illusion. No matter how many times you play (and I’ve played quite a few!), you’ll be left with a hole of unanswered questions, and you’ll need to be comfortable with that to get the most out of the story, but that in itself is an important part of the adventure. This is a story of a young person who doesn’t – who can’t – know everything that they need to bring them comfort in the (literally and figuratively) cold and disquieting world that surrounds them, and it’s a world that’s presented with a touching and tragic beauty.
Through multiple playthroughs – or rewinds, which it took me a while to notice were an option! – you’ll find yourself teased with more and more of the story. There are a few frankly-unfair moments where an unsatisfactory ending comes with little or no warning, and a handful of places where it feels like your choices are insignificant to the story, but these are few and far between. Altogether this is among the better pieces of hypertext fiction I’ve enjoyed, and I’d recommend that you give it a try (even if you don’t share the love-hate relationship with Preston Bus Station that is so common among those who spent much of their youth sitting in it).
It’s no secret that I spent a significant proportion of my youth waiting for or changing buses at (the remarkable) Preston Bus Station, and that doubtless biases my enjoyment of this game by tingeing it with nostalgia. But I maintain that it’s a well-written piece of hypertext interactive fiction with a rich, developed world. You can play it starting from here, and you should. It looks like the story’s accompanying images died somewhere along the way, but you can flick through them all here and get a feel for the shadowy, brutalist, imposing place.
Last weekend was an exciting and unusual experience, full of exciting (expected) things interspersed with a handful of exciting (unexpected) things. Let’s go chronologically:
Thursday/Friday – Mario, Magic, Marriage
I left work, picked up a rental car (having unfortunately forgotten to take my counterpart driving license to the rental place, I had the choice of either cycling for an hour to collect it or else paying a fiver for them to run a DVLA check, and I opted for the latter on the grounds that an hour of my time (especially if I have to spend it cycling back and forth along the same stretch of road) is worth more to me than a picture of Elizabeth Fry. I drove home, packed a bag, said goodbye to Ruth, JTA, and Annabel, and drove up to Preston.
There, I spent most of Friday playing the new Mario game with my sister Becky, gave a few small performances of magic (did I mention I’m doing magic nowadays? – guess that’ll have to wait for another blog post) at various places around Preston, and went out for a curry with my mother, my sisters Becky and Sarah, and Sarah’s boyfriend Richard. So far, so ordinary, right? Well that’s where things took a turn. Because as Becky, our mother, and I looked at the drinks menu as we waited for Sarah and her boyfriend to turn up… something different happened instead.
Sarah turned up with her husband.
It turns out that they’d gotten married earlier that afternoon. They’d not told anybody in advance – nobody at all – but had simply gone to the registry office (via a jewellers, to rustle up some rings, and a Starbucks, to rustle up some witnesses) and tied the knot. Okay; that’s not strictly true: clearly they had at least three weeks planning on account of the way that marriage banns work in the UK. Any case case, I’ve suddenly got the temptation to write some software that monitors marriage announcements (assuming there are XML feeds, or something) and compares them to your address book to let you know if anybody you know is planning to elope, just to save me from the moment of surprise that caught me out in a curry house on Friday evening.
So it turns out I’ve acquired a brother-in-law. He’s a lovely chap and everything, but man, that was surprising. There’ll doubtless be more about it in Episode 32 of Becky’s “Family Vlog”, so if there was ever an episode that you ought to watch, then it’s this one – with its marriage surprise and (probably) moments of magic – that you ought to keep an eye out for.
Next, I made my way up to Edinburgh to meet up with Matt R and his man-buddies for a stag night to remember. Or, failing that, a stag night to forget in a drunken haze: it’s been a long, long time since I’ve drunk like I did on that particular outing. After warming up with a beer or two in our hotel room, the five of us made our way to the Glenkinchie Distillery, for a wonderful exploration into the world of whiskies.
And then, of course, began the real drinking. Four or five whiskies at the distillery bar, followed by another beer back in the hotel room, followed by a couple more beers at bars, followed by another four whiskies at the Whiski Rooms (which I’d first visited while in Edinburgh for the fringe, last year), followed by a beer with dinner… and I was already pretty wiped-out. Another of the ‘stags’ and I – he equally knackered and anticipating a full day of work, in the morning – retired to the hotel room while the remainder took Matt out “in search of a titty bar” (a mission in which, I gather, they were unsuccessful).
Do you remember being in your early twenties and being able to throw back that kind of level of booze without so much as a shudder? Gosh, it gets harder a decade later. On the other hand, I was sufficiently pickled that I wasn’t for a moment disturbed by the gents I was sharing a room with, who I should re-name “snore-monster”, “fart-monster”, and “gets-up-a-half-dozen-times-during-the-night-to-hug-the-toilet-bowl-monster”. I just passed out and stayed that way until the morning came, when I went in search of a sobering double-helping of fried food to set me right before the long journey back to Oxford.
All in all: hell of a stag night, and a great pre-party in anticipation of next weekend’s pair of weddings… y’know, the ones which I’d stupidly thought would be the only two couples I knew who’d be getting married this fortnight!
This review went a little bit meta, on account of the fact that I feature both as the reviewer and also as a subject of Godzilla’s sixth weekly Family Vlog itself. So ultimately, I end up reviewing an episode with me in. Clearly the bits with me in were the best.
Family Picnic: Joining Ruth and JTA at Ruth’s annual family picnic, among her billions of second-cousins and third-aunts.
New Earthwarming: Having a mini housewarming on New Earth, where I live with Ruth, JTA, and Paul. A surprising number of people came from surprisingly far away, and it was fascinating to see some really interesting networking being done by a mixture of local people (from our various different “circles” down here) and distant guests.
Bodleian Staff Summer Party: Yet another reason to love my new employer! The drinks and the hog roast (well, roast vegetable sandwiches and falafel wraps for me, but still delicious) would have won me over by themselves. The band was just a bonus. The ice cream van that turned up and started dispensing free 99s: that was all just icing on the already-fabulous cake.
New Earth Games Night: Like Geek Night, but with folks local to us, here, some of whom might have been put off by being called “Geeks”, in that strange way that people sometimes do. Also, hanging out with the Oxford On Board folks, who do similar things on Monday nights in the pub nearest my office.
Meeting Oxford Nightline: Oxford University’s Nightline is just about the only Nightline in the British Isles to not be using Three Rings, and they’re right on my doorstep, so I’ve been meeting up with some of their folks in order to try to work out why. Maybe, some day, I’ll actually understand the answer to that question.
Alton Towers & Camping: Ruth and I decided to celebrate the 4th anniversary of us getting together with a trip to Alton Towers, where their new ride, Thirteen, is really quite good (but don’t read up on it: it’s best enjoyed spoiler-free!), and a camping trip in the Lake District, with an exhausting but fulfilling trek to the summit of Glaramara.
That’s quite a lot of stuff, even aside from the usual work/volunteering/etc. stuff that goes on in my life, so it’s little wonder that I’ve neglected to blog about it all. Of course, there’s a guilt-inspired downside to this approach, and that’s that one feels compelled to not blog about anything else until finishing writing about the first neglected thing, and so the problem snowballs.
So this quick summary, above? That’s sort-of a declaration of blogger-bankruptcy on these topics, so I can finally stop thinking “Hmm, can’t blog about X until I’ve written about Code Week!”
The weekend before the weekend before last, Ruth, JTA and I went up to Preston, for:
My Sister’s Birthday
My sister, Sarah, turned 21 at the start of this month, and we – accompanied by her friends and family – went out to a new Punjabi restaurant called East Z East. The food was fantastic (although in hindsight we probably should have adapted the formula as far as naan bread is concerned, at least – each naan bread was about three feet long!), but the restaurant was a little full! Perhaps be better on a midweek night.
As has become traditional (see blog entries for 2009, 2005, 2003), the next stop was Hoghton Tower for their annual concert and fireworks display. As usual, this event began with the erection of a gazebo in which to have our picnic.
The instructions for the gazebo clearly stated that it was to be constructed by two adults, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to help Ruth and JTA building it, except in a supervisory capacity. I helpfully assembled the first deckchair and sat in it, drinking a beer and overseeing the process.
My management skills paid off, and soon we had a gazebo, tables, and a (huge) picnic.
Some of my sister Becky‘s friends had brought face paints and brushes with them, so we formed a line of people, each painting the face of the next. My mum painted mine: she asked what I wanted, so I told her that I wanted a narwhal, breaching the water and leaping for the sky. I think she did a pretty good job:
Then came my turn. I was to paint Ruth, but she didn’t know what she wanted. The suggestion came that I should paint a rubber duck on her forehead, and so long as you don’t mind ducks that look like they’re from canary heritage:
The concert itself was even better than normal – the arsenal of fireworks was even huger than we were used to, and was supplemented by the addition of a laser show, too! I was slightly disappointed that God Save The Queen wasn’t performed (not for any patriotic reason, I’m sure you understand – I’m just used to them playing it!). Still, a great night, and a fabulous excuse for me to re-educate Ruth in how to count to three (in order to waltz, you see: it’s incredibly difficult to dance when one participant is counting to three and the other is counting to two).
On the other hand: here the snow is thick and heavy! Paul and I made it to Preston in the end, after a series of train journeys along an unusual route (but, remarkably, virtually all running on time). From Aberystwyth, it’s genuinely challenging to appreciate how significantly the recent snowfall has impacted on the rest of the UK. By Dyfi Junction the train staff were warning about the conditions on the unploughed platforms, and at Manchester, unused platform ends lay heavy with slush piled up around the tracks.
The major roads are swept, but the side roads are piled high with drifts and it’s hard to see (or even feel) the speed bumps in the residential estates. Apparently, the other night one of my sisters – Becky – had to drive into town to collect the other – Sarah – as she couldn’t get a taxi home after a night out… because the taxi drivers were refusing to drive through the snow that littered my mum’s estate.
It’s quite remarkable to see this much snow here – the most I’ve seen anywhere in England in about fourteen years. We may well be having a white Christmas yet!
Since I last posted, I’ve been fairly busy, one way and another. First, Dan and I travelled up to Preston where I was forced to allow that it isn’t a complete pit after all because it does have a couple of nice bits (viz, a pretty park by the river and a nice museum/library with a ball on a really long bit of string in the lobby).
We also visited Blackpool, which was a new experience for me. Incidentally, the entertainment value of eating giant eclairs and then riding on a waltzer is limited. I kicked Dan’s arse at crazy golf, on a really nice course with astro-turf and little streams.
Later, we travelled up to Scotland with some crazed, drunken bus company employees (they were an ok bunch apart from their habit of getting up at 5am) to canoe the Caledonian canal. I managed the 18 mile first day, got out of our boat and found that my RSI had flared up and I couldn’t move my arms at all. Dan sympathetically fell about with laughter, but on the third day (Fort Augustus to Drumnadrochit) the winds on Loch Ness were so bad that he and the other canoeists were forced off the water so we both finished up walking the Great Glen Way to Inverness.
On the way back down, the planets were aligned correctly (or something) so we were able to do the surprise thing that Dan had been planning for ages as my graduation treat. We got up at 5.30 and drove out to a deserted farm shop on the outskirts of Preston, where we sat in a car park for 10 minutes or so before a battered landrover emblazoned with “Pendle Balloon Company” arrived towing a large basket on a trailer. I was surprised.
Ballooning was amazing. First, we got to help put the balloon up (which was really cool). The inside is full of wires and cables which are used to control it in various ways. We went up to 5500 feet before coming back down so we could get a better view of the countryside. It was cold at that height but there was barely a breath of wind for reasons which I am sure you can all figure out by yourselves (I felt colder when we eventually touched down and could feel the breeze again). The views were stunning, the gentleness of the flight was quite something, and I had a great time. When it was over, we drank champagne with the pilot and other passengers (which is apparently a ballooning tradition, although I don’t know whether the plastic beakers are traditional or not).
It was a good trip. Knackering, and full of unexpected events, but highly enjoyable. Now I’m settling in for a summer of alternating basking in the sunshine with working like buggery on voluntary projects. All I need is a part time job so I can carry on eating and paying the rent, and I’m set.
Claire and I just got back from a weekend in Preston, taking the opportunity to visit my folks as well as to (as is now traditional) go to the annual “Symphony at the Tower” at Hoghton Tower (which Ruth and I buzzed by hot air balloon on our way back from Scotland, earlier this year).
Sticking marshmallows to Claire while eating our picnic in the gazebo we would later abandon on the site after many years of faithful service.
The music. Of course. The Philharmonic Concert Orchestra were as good as ever.
Dancing! (some folks started dancing a lot sooner than others, as shown)
Whatever’s going on here! (I think perhaps I’m too far away from the stage and can’t see what’s going on, even wearing borrowed jam-jar-thickness glasses).
My sister insisting on getting to be in a photo with the mayor. I think she thinks that by putting this picture on Facebook and tagging it, it’ll somehow help her future political career.
The rain pouring down. Thankfully, we were equipped and ready with emergency poncho supplies, so we were able to carry on leaping around like mad fools and letting only the bottom part of our sleeves get wet. Claire later had to wring hers out. Spirits remained undampened.
Claire falling in love with a singer wearing Union Jack trousers. In the photo, I think he’s singing “Jerusalem“.
The fireworks at the end of the concert were particularly spectacular this year, despite the weather. It was great to catch up with my family again, too (and visit my sister Becky‘s work, leap around on my dad’s trampoline until I injured my back doing so, liberate eggs from my mum’s chickens, and so on), although the journey to and from Preston was particularly tiresome this time around, and I’m sure my travelsickness is getting more pronounced. There’s more photos from the trip here.
Back in Aber, I’ve got a few fun little projects to be working on, alongside the usual things that keep me busy. I’ll blog about a few of these when I get the chance.
So, what have I been up to this weekend, you ask. Well…
“Cover The Mirrors” Launch Party
On Friday I took the train up to Preston. The train I was on broke down at Machynlleth when they linked it up to the carriages that had come down the Pwllheli line, and the repairs set me back by almost an hour, but it turns out that the rest of the rail network was running behind schedule that day, too, and so I didn’t miss any important connections. I arrived in time for a quick “birthday tea” with my family (for my dad’s birthday) before rushing off to the Waterstones for the launch party for my friend Faye‘s first published novel, Cover The Mirrors.
I drank as much wine as the store were willing to give me and bought myself a signed copy of the book. I even managed to get the photo, above, under the proviso that it’s only allowed to appear on the internet thanks to the fact that I’m holding a carrier bag in front of Faye’s face (she’s more than a little camera-shy). I haven’t started reading Cover The Mirrors yet, because I’m virtually at the end of The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, and I’d like to finish that first, but little doubt you’ll hear about it here in due course.
After the book launch, my sisters and I took my dad out for a few drinks to celebrate his 51st birthday. It turns out that, in my absence, Preston’s nightclub scene has really taken off. We started out in an 80s-themed bar which is part of a chain called Reflex. It’s so 80s it’s unreal: all 80s hits playing, David Hasselhoff and Mr. T decorating every wall, glitter balls and spots and mirrors everywhere… deely-boppers available at the bar… and so on. Really quite a fantastic theme venue. Then, under my sister Sarah’s recommendation, we tootled up the street and into a cafe/club called Manyana, where my dad got hit on by somebody young enough to be his daughter.
I snatched this picture. I’ve no idea who she is – we didn’t get her name – but she seemed genuinely surprised to hear my dad’s age. So I had the DJ announce it, just to make sure there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that there was an old person on the dancefloor.
This influx of Preston nightclubs is making them all remarkably competitive with their drinks prices, too. I bought a few rounds for the four of us and none of them ever came to over a tenner, and one – thanks to the “buy one get one free” policy at Manyana – came to under £6, which is quite remarkable for a city nightclub on a Friday night for four people!
Back To Aberystwyth
On Saturday I had brunch with my sister Becky, my mum, and her boyfriend and then got back onto the trains to head back to Aberystwyth. Owing to line maintenance, the stretch of track between Crewe and Preston is unusable every weekend within sight, and so I was re-directed via Manchester Piccadilly. Yet again, my train ran late, and I found myself sprinting across Piccadilly station, trying to find a train that was heading Shrewsbury-way…
…meanwhile, my friend Katie, having slept through her stop, woke up in Manchester Piccadilly and, not quite awake, clambered off her train in an attempt to find a connection. I’d apparently featured in her dream, and so she was quite surprised (and not quite sure if she was seeing things) when I sprinted past her. She sent a text (which I chose to ignore: my pocket beeped but I was too busy looking for a train to take the time to get my phone out) and then phoned me before she was able to confirm that yes, it really was me.
As we were headed the same way, she joined me on my train for one stop, which was a nice surprise for what was a long and overcomplicated train journey. A few folks have suggested that this might not be a coincidence, and that she might be stalking me, but I’m yet to be convinced.
In any case, I don’t have a picture to go with this part of the story. Sorry.
Jimmy, Beth, and Troma Night
YATN. If you were there, you know how it went. Big thanks to Jimmy and Beth for coming along.
Lloyd Kaufman’s Visit
In case you’ve not been anywhere that I can pounce on you and go “squee!” recently, here’s what you missed out on. You’ll remember that last week I mentioned that Poultrygeist – Troma‘s new movie – was coming to Aberystwyth. Well, it did. And it rocked…
…and better yet, Ruth, Claire, JTA, Paul and I got to hang out with Lloyd Kaufman, president of Troma Studios and producer of The Toxic Avenger, for a couple of pints and to share a bowl of nachos. The guy’s fabulously chatty and friendly, and if it weren’t for the awestruck feeling of “wow, we’re just sat here chatting with Lloyd Kaufman in Lord Beechings” we’d have probably been more interesting company.
When he said goodbye, kissing the cheeks of each of the girls, I genuinely thought that they were in danger of exploding with excitement. Thankfully they didn’t, because I’d already bought them tickets to see Poultrygeist later on.
Which was, as I’ve said before, fantastic. It’s even better seen with a nice, energised audience, and better still when the director and several other people who worked on the film are hanging around afterwards to answer questions, chat, autograph things and so on. There are apparently 15 prints of Poultrygeist and the capacity to make more on demand, so if you want to see it and can’t wait for the DVD release, go speak to your local cinema now and ask if they’ll show Poultrygeist, even if only for a week (as Lloyd himself said, it’s better than showing Transformers on all 24 screens of some soulless megaplex). And hell, with Troma’s current financial situation, they could probably do with a helping hand with getting into as many projection booths as possible!
The title of this post – Quickly, Before They Turn The Glass Into Lesbians! – is a reference to one of my favourite lines in the film.
Paul might have bitten off more than he can chew, though, as he hinted on his blog. After some discussion with Lloyd, Paul is likely to be responsible for:
Re-establishing the UK division of the Troma fan club.
Acting as president of the above, for the forseeable future.
Investigating UK distribution of Troma films.
Oh, and making an official DVD subtitle track for Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead, which describes the Troma Night drinking rules and reminds you when you should be drinking. He’s got a few ideas about things that should be in such a subtitle track, too, and if you’re familiar with the rules you’ll probably be able to guess what he’s thinking about.
I’ll leave it to him to go into detail, if he wishes.
Matt In Hospital
Between places, we also joined a growing crowd at the foot of Matt‘s bed in Bronglais Hospital. His operation was a success, but he’s reacted unusually to the general anaesthetic and they’re likely to keep him in for observation for another few days. If you haven’t had a chance to visit him already, he’d probably appreciate the company (although Sarah seems to have barely left his side): visiting hours are 3pm-5pm, 6pm-8pm: just ask if you need to know what ward he’s in and how to get there. If you’re feeling particularly cruel, mock him by talking about how well your bodily excretions are working, or swap his drip with his catheter bag while he’s not looking.
But seriously: I’m sure we all wish him well.
Finally – as if we weren’t full enough from a large Sunday lunch – after leaving the cinema, Gareth, Penny, Amy, Ruth, JTA, Claire and I slipped down for a late-night curry at the Spice of Bengal. Which was delicious, although there was a little much food for those of us who were already quite full.
Nonetheless, a fantastic end to a fantastic weekend! I’m sure everybody else will have a different story to tell (Paul spent longer with Lloyd and went to more films; Claire and Jimmy got horribly drunk together on Friday night after she, Ruth and JTA failed to see a Meatloaf concert; Matt’ll have his own morphine-fuelled tale to spin, and so on), because it’s been a rich, full couple of days for many of us abnibbers.
Claire and I are in Preston. Let me explain how this came about.
As I mentioned, we spent Friday night and most of Saturday in Gregynog, a beautiful stately home owned by the University of Wales and used as a conference venue. Every year, the Computer Science department ships almost the entirety of the second year out there to learn how better to get a job, in anticipation of hopefully getting an industry year placement the following year. Claire, as a department staff member, was invited along to help organise a group of students. I was invited along as an representative of the computer industry, there to give mock interviews to students of the kind that they might expect when applying for computer science related jobs for their industry year or for graduate positions.
It was a lot of fun. I met some interesting people and, with their help, got to grill students. Perhaps my favourite part was successfully catching out students who had… how shall we say it… exaggerated a little on their CVs. One fellow, I remember, had, while boasting about his web development proficiency, stated that he was familiar with HTTP. So I asked him what the fundamental differences between a GET and a POST method were. I’d have accepted something about request parameters being visible on the address bar, but no: no such luck. It was also good to be pleasantly surprised, such as by the database-proficient claimant I met who successfully, with a pause, disassembled the huge database relationship diagram I gave to him. My co-interviewer says I’m evil. I replied that I was merely thorough.
On Saturday night, in accordance with our plans, we continued on to Warrington to visit Gareth and Liz‘s new place. Gareth didn’t seem quite ‘with it’. But the food was good and I regretted eating so well at Gregynog that I couldn’t guzzle more, and the company was even better. After the party came to a quiet end, we dropped off Jimmy at his home in Runcorn, and decided to move on up to Preston to say “hi” to my folks.
Needless to say, my mum was at least a little surprised when Claire and I waltzed into her bedroom. We didn’t waltz, mind. More of a polka. But she was surprised, regardless. My dad returns from Vietnam today, so we’re hoping to catch him and have lunch before we return to Aber.
Paul: I bet, despite her trying to remind herself on several occasions, Claire’s still forgotten to call you to tell you that we’re unlikely to make the 2:30 screening of Howl’s Moving Castle at the Arts Centre, so I hope you read this before then.
Just yesterday, I was commenting to Claire and Paul that I couldn’t remember any dreams I’d had, recently (we were talking about their recent dreams), and then, last night:
For some reason, this dream took place mostly in Preston. I was walking around a contorted, ‘different’-looking part of the Avenham district, towards Riversway (the dock itself is for some reason not shown on the linked map, but it’s there – both in real life and in my dream – in that big, grey area). In any case; upon reaching a large road near the dockside, I was surprised to find that a Safeway store had been constructed there since my last visit. But what I remembered being there was not whatever-really-is-there… what I remembered being there was a large hedge maze, in which Claire and I got lost in a dream I had several months ago. In any case, this superstore was spectacular, as it was not only the largest supermarket I’ve ever seen, but also included a large theme park. The big, green track of a rollercoaster snaked around in the air above it, and a yellow ‘caterpillar’-style train (with a big fibreglass umbrella in it’s midsection) whizzed around it. Behind that, I could make out a big wheel and an assortment of other rides.
Surprised at the presence of this unusual shopping centre, I continued to trek East, alongside the mystery new Safeway store. I began to miss Claire – having been reminded of her by remembering how a hedge maze used to be where the supermarket now was (mmm… dream self-referencial-ness). The boundary of the land that held the supermarket, theme park, and their associated car park, was marked by a shallow trench (about three feet deep and about six feet across) filled with water, over which bridges crossed to provide access to the car park. Further from the entrance – such as where I now found myself – this moat became wider, and small, long islands stretched along it in places. These were all well-kept: covered with recently-cut grass – and the borders of the islands were entirely vertical, reinforced with rough-hewn bricks.
I came across a man wearing an invisibility jacket (a.k.a. a glo-vest), who, seeing me looking at the moat, showed off by demonstrating that he could ‘run’ on the water, dancing along on his tip-toes. He explained that the water was not as deep as it looked, and when I tried it, I found that he was right. I followed him along one of the central islands, back towards the supermarket entrance, and he took off his high-visibility jacket (and I was unsure where he put it, because I never saw him carrying it). But we could only go so far before we came across a small sign, implanted in the grass, stating that we were going the wrong way. For awhile, I considered disobeying, but a woman in a Safeway uniform was walking towards us, down the island, so I decided against it. Thanking the man-without-the-day-glo-clothing, I continued to trek coastwards.
Somehow, here, I came across a large bus station (which also doesn’t exist) on a remarkably busy dual carriageway. Here, things go a little hazy, but I remember that I was speaking to a woman and her daughter, and they were running away from something, and they asked me to deliver a bag (identical to a bag I own) to a friend’s house in Fulwood (North Preston), where she and her daughter would be staying, which I agreed to do. And I remember looking at the contents of the bag and thinking that they were travelling rather lightly. But that’s about it.
Good progress at work today, easily catching up on the things I didn’t get done yesterday on account of having been at the Royal Welsh Show.
AbNib is proving itself popular, but I’m still not happy with it: there are a load of really cool features I’d like to add, yet. But that’s a job for another day. I’ll be up in Lancashire this weekend for Andy‘s party and to visit my folks, so I can’t do it then, either.
Claire’s gotten herself temporarily sterilized with a fantastic hyperdermic full of progesterone and with the aid of the nice people at Aberystwyth Family Planning Clinic. Woo and indeed hoo. She’s (theoretically) a lot less likely to forget to have an injection every three months than she is to forget to take the pill: something she’s demonstrated herself to be very proficient at.
I’ve been excessivley stressed for the last 48 or so hours. I think it’s mostly a result of having no money and my paycheque still being a week away, and having to live off my credit card in the meantime (which I don’t like doing). Also that my crisp-wound in my mouth from the other day has developed into a spot which would probably heal faster and hurt less if I could stop playing with it, but I can’t. And that I’m not making nearly as much coding progress on Three Rings as I should be.
I have a strange urge to go for a long walk in the rain this evening. I hope it rains.